July 28, 2015

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Channing Tatum & co.

First, let's address the elephant in the room: that this movie was such a terrible idea that even Matthew McConaughey didn't want to be involved. This guy thought it was a good idea to make those ridiculous Lincoln commercials, but Magic Mike the sequel was too far apparently. 

Anyway, you know how Sex and the City the movie was made, and people enjoyed it, mostly? Then they decided to cash in on a sequel despite really having no plot or reason to make it other than the obvious? Yeah, this is like that. Except that instead of using the movie to showcase ridiculous costume changes by Carrie & co, this just kept trying to find places to put in awkward stripper interludes. Like, if you've ever wondered what Channing Tatum would look like humping a nail gun on top of a table and making sexual innuendos with a piece of metal, this is the movie for you.

It's not like anyone with a rational mind could go into this movie expecting much of anything, plot-wise. Yet, it's still somehow shocking how poorly stitched together it all is. Aging male strippers, off for a final hurrah at a stripper convention, for which they'll spend time and money in preparation, but with no competition or incentive at the end of it, other than to "put on a show?" Really? Because they just love stripping that much? Again, no one is watching this for the plot, but even that's hard to overlook.

Ironically, at the same time, the movie sporadically tries to be a little too deep. It delves into the inner beings of the guys (as if strippers have personalities and dreams!) and tries to be somewhat serious about their prospective futures. It's weird. Mostly because I can't reconcile the juxtaposition of that guy from White Collar talking about wanting to be a singer before humping a middle-aged women on a couch next to Andie MacDowell. Yes, that Andie MacDowell. 

She's not the most uncomfortable cameo, however. It's not Michael Strahan as a stripper, humping a large woman either. (There's a lot of humping in this movie in case you hadn't caught that yet.) Or Elizabeth Banks as, well, I'm not sure who she is supposed to be. No, the most uncomfortable famous person in this movie is undeniably Jada Pinkett Smith, who sort of ruined the movie for me. Yes, I just said she ruined a stripper movie with a paper-thin plot. Let me explain.

Jada's character replaces McConaughey's character, which is already a tough sell. I mean, no one can do sleaze mixed with comedy like McConaughey. So instead, she tries to sell "sexy" by walking in this weird exaggerated slow motion with a cocked fedora, calling everyone "queen." It's horrifying. However, not quite as horrifying as the fact that we're expected to believe she and Tatum were an item, which is the worst romantic pairing since Julianne Moore and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon.

This movie would have been vastly improved had it stopped trying to pretend it was a real movie and fully embraced the ridiculousness of it. i.e. not create another lame quasi-love interest for Tatum who is basically a slightly cuter version of the inexplicably angry girl in the first movie. Her character was actually less necessary than Pinkett's character, which is saying something.

But no one watches a movie like this for the women; you watch it for mostly naked hot men and on that point, they deliver. I don't know if it's because I was distracted by the "plot" of the first movie, but I'm pretty sure everyone got more attractive in this movie. Even Channing Tatum. I take back everything I said about him in my 22 Jump Street review. As my [female] movie companion sighed as the credits rolled, "I got my money's worth."

Final word: Like every other "dance-based" movie, really the only final 15 minutes are worth watching. But that 15 minutes....

Related: Magic Mike

July 24, 2015

Two Night Stand (2014)

Analeigh Tipton, Miles Teller

This is a phenomenal premise. It's hard to imagine anything more awkward than being forced to hang out, one-on-one with a one-night-stand you want to escape. It's a feeling that, even if you can't directly relate to, can easily imagine and sympathize with. Unfortunately, the writers felt they needed to flesh out the plot with rom-com clichés.

Look, I get that clichés are just part of the deal with rom-coms. Hence, the quirky girl who is just a mess but is, of course, irresistibly attractive for those exact reasons. I mean, she dances like no one is watching--literally! And she blurts out whatever she's thinking! And of course, she doesn't sleep around--but she still loves sex. Meanwhile, there is a perfectly normal guy on the other end of this who happily receives her mean-spirited comments and doesn't seem offended in the least when she never thanks him for letting her back into his apartment after she storms out of his house because she's offended by some innocuous comment. I'm confused, aren't rom-coms written for women? Is this how women see themselves? As neurotic, self-sabotaging individuals who want to be able to throw their worst at a guy and still have him like her for it?

Then again, maybe I'm reading too much into this. After all, this is a movie that has a girl flush a magazine page down the toilet! Because really, what would a rom-com be without contrived circumstances to try and add a bit of humor? (Remember that whole vibrating underwear part in The Ugly Truth?) Oh, and a twenty-something who can afford his own apartment in NY to permit this whole "forced weekend together" thing. Ugh. At least neither of them is an artist or lives in a loft.

That being said, the movie is mildly funny. Miles Teller plays a lovable-type regular guy who's funny without try too hard and Analeigh Tipton is somewhat charming and surprisingly not awkward to watch in this capacity, considering the fact that everyone only knows her as the naked babysitter in Crazy Stupid Love. Normally I am the champion against unattractive people in this movie, but here, it works. Both of them are basically in the same range, so the whole hook-up seems more believable. And though they have her do some ridiculously batsh*t crazy stuff that seems to be completely out of character, she's not terrible.

One day, I will write a rom-com devoid of clichés. But until then, we make do with movies like this.

Final word: The beginning and the end are good. If you can make it through the middle without turning it off, the movie is decent.

July 17, 2015

The Rewrite (2014)

Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei

Yikes. Where to start.

Maybe I should start with Hugh Grant, the mediocre rom-com king. Paul Rudd has nothing on this guy. Or maybe I should start with Marisa Tomei, whose fans keep hoping for her next great movie, utterly in denial that her career has steadily declined since My Cousin Vinny. She's made a sudden resurgence after seemingly disappearing for awhile, but with the exception of The Wrestler, in which she was clearly not paid enough to pretend to be interested in Micky Rourke, there has been nothing noteworthy.

The basic premise isn't terrible, actually. A struggling movie writer with few prospects takes a job teaching at a college to pay the bills. But that's sort of where the good news ends.

This movie is not just bad--it's offensive. It's offensive to teachers, who spend years studying and perfecting their craft, only to watch movies that show narcissistic people like Grant's character excel at it with no preparation simply because he suddenly decided to care. That's not how teaching actually works, but hey, who cares when you're perpetuating a stereotype, right? It's not like it's doing any harm, subconsciously swaying the public to believe it, so that people believe teachers are lazy and just aren't trying hard enough when students don't ace those obviously legitimate standardized tests.

Think I'm overreacting? Here is the "top review" on IMDB: "If you are a teacher, take your students with you. If you want to be a teacher then you'll find really good pointers here." Yes, this man is advocating that future teachers take lessons on how to do their job from a Hugh Grant movie.

It's also offensive to women, with the stereotype in this movie that they fall into three camps:
1. Angry, controlling types who are dead set on ruining mens' lives, as played by Allison Janney. Her character is also a die-hard Jane Austen fan, because you know, she's "that kind of woman."
2. Angry, retributive types who can't handle rejection, as played by whoever that girl is in the glasses on the movie poster.
3. The "ideal" girl, who is independent and calls men out on their bullsh*t, who also happens to be hot and forgiving of men's ridiculous behavior, as played by Marisa Tomei.

I realize this movie is simply a vehicle for Hugh Grant to display his one-dimensional acting skills as a cad who wakes up and realizes he should be a good guy in order to win over a girl, but it's offensive to the viewers that the writers couldn't be bothered to write anyone of substance around him.

In the end, this is not just another formulaic rom-com. It's so much worse than that.

Final word: This was even worse than Larry Crowne. Or Music & Lyrics